Through culture we explore what it means to be American.

American culture—our entertainment, our art, and our creative expressions of daily life—has the power to captivate, inspire, and transform us. It brings us together—we share it when we spontaneously recite lines from a favorite movie, dance to the same groove, or recreate a national sports moment on a neighborhood street. It enables us to understand and appreciate our differences—some of the most vital expansions of our democracy, in fact, gained ground through pivotal cultural moments.  It spurs important conversations, and can foster important historical change.

The National Museum of American History is home to treasured objects and stories about American culture. Come enjoy our exhibitions and programs, or explore our online resources.

Dorothy’s ruby slippers on display in the exhibition, Entertainment Nation/Nación del espectáculo
Dorothy's ruby slippers on display at the museum

New culture displays

The museum’s new Culture Wing features displays that explore American history through culture, entertainment and the arts.

  • Entertainment Nation/Nación del espectáculo explores American history through the long-standing power of entertainment. Within the Ray and Dagmar Dolby Hall of American Culture, the 7,000 square-foot exhibition shows how entertainment brings Americans together, shapes them, and provides a forum for important national conversations about politics, society, culture, and what it means to be an American.
  • (re)Framing Conversations: Photographs by Richard Avedon 1946-1965 explores the power and impact of post-WWII magazine photography through iconic portraits. (re)Framing Conversations is the inaugural exhibition in the Marcia and Frank Carlucci Hall of Culture and the Arts.
  • The “Pause & Replay” installation space offers visitors a chance to recharge and reminisce about video games and take a nostalgic look through archival images, animations and retro games.
  • A 14-foot stained-glass window (pictured at top), one of four that originally graced the tower of the Victor Company’s headquarters in Camden, New Jersey, serves as the Culture Wing’s landmark object. Its image of “Nipper,” the dog listening to his master’s recorded voice, became the Recording Corporation of America’s trademark image.
  • The “Ray Dolby Gateway to Culture” features America’s Listening, a display of five American innovations relating to recorded sound.
  • After a year of research and conservation treatment, Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz are displayed in a new, state-of-the-art display case in Entertainment Nation/Nación del espectáculo.
  • The stunning new Nicholas F. and Eugenia Taubman Hall of Music anchors the floor. This dedicated venue provides a home for our celebrated Smithsonian Chamber Music Society and the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, as well as a variety of other live performances.

Explore Further

  • Listen to stories about iconic artifacts from the museum's collection, including Fonzie's leather jacket, Archie Bunker's chair, and Dorothy's ruby slippers, in the podcast series Lost at the Smithsonian with Aasif Mandvi.
  • Explore oral history excerpts and personal reflections on our entertainment collection from over 50 leading culture-makers in The American Scene.
  • Watch our curators discuss the connection between entertainment and social change in this recorded virtual program “Social Justice on Film.”

From Our Blog

Martha Raye in conversation with members of the 173rd Airborne Brigade. Raye and the soldiers sit outside on benches.

Entertainer Martha Raye's life changed forever when she joined the fledgling United Service Organizations (USO) during World War II. The experience gave Raye a lifelong calling of entertaining and serving the nation’s service personnel in the field.

Four images. Leather pants and jeans, orange and white Cuban rumba dress, a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball jersey with the player number 21, and a margarita machine decorated with faux-wood paneling.

From wooden crosses to baseball uniforms to costume butterfly wings, our collections show that Latinx people have been an important part of U.S. history since the nation’s beginnings.

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